Posts Tagged: Illinois state legislature

Identifying small-scale fraud with foodstamps

Food stamps are maybe the best-functioning part of the social safety net in both Illinois and the country.  Is there any real reason to mess with them?  Now an Illinois House committee has approved a bill requiring that all Illinois Link cards, the debit-like card used by food stamp recipients, have a photo ID.  Hannah Hess of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that not only must the full Illinois state legislature and governor approve the measure, but the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, which funds food stamps, must also sign off.  Supporting lawmakers contend the photo IDs will stop those who use a link card other than their own. However, there is little evidence food stamp fraud is a widespread problem, or that it has been costing the government a significant amount of money.

The Limits of ‘Anything But Taxes’ Politics

Pat Quinn: smokers will pay for student's college tuition

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman reports that Mayor Richard Daley doesn’t want to raise property taxes in order to close a $520 million shortfall for the city’s upcoming, 2010 budget. Daley instead wants to raid city reserve funds — using rainy-day money that was generated from long-term public-private deals like Chicago’s 75-year contract to privatize the city’s parking meters. Such a move could jeopardize the city’s AA bond rating.

Meanwhile, the Illinois state legislature meets today and the Chicago Tribune’s Monique Garcia reports that legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn have already decided not to make long-term decisions about state budget problems:

…[L]awmakers have no plans to tackle the overarching budget issues, including Quinn’s proposal for an income tax increase. They will instead focus on a relatively small but immediate problem — finding $200 million to pay for scholarships for 137,000 low-income students enrolled in college this spring.

While Democratic and Republican leaders agree on the need to pay for the scholarships, known as Monetary Award Program grants, there is no clear-cut plan. Quinn has backed a Senate-passed measure that would raise the cigarette tax to pay down a backlog in medical bills, saying that would free up other state money for the scholarships.

So both Quinn and Daley are taking short cuts, instead of at least proposing  a tax increase. The main arguments against an increased property tax and a steeper income tax are that A.) you don’t raise taxes in a recession and B.) it’s political poison to raises taxes, especially with the 2010 primary coming up in February.

What’s missing here on both the city and state level is anyone with the political security to say that raiding break-glass-in-case-of-emergency-funds and enacting the umpteenth regressive tax on cigarettes is not sustainable fiscal policy. The ‘anything but taxes’ form of government puts both the city and state in a limbo where where good-government doesn’t depend on political leaders foresight or management skills but instead a national economic recovery that might replenish tax revenue. Daley and Quinn’s uninspiring strategy is to avoid announcing a tax increase and then cross their fingers that outside forces will make the current budget nightmares go away.

IN ILLINOIS, QUINN TO TRY GOVERNING VIA REFERENDUM

The Chicago Tribune’s Ray Long and Monique Garcia report that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants the Illinois state legislature to pass a bill that would call for binding voter referendums on ethics laws. Having voters ratify state ethics standards seems idealistic and democratic but it also seems a little dumb. First, what has happened this year, not to mention the last 30 years, in California shows that binding voter referendums are often not as neat as they sound. Further, Quinn’s credibility on ethics reform is kind of shot after the governor couldn’t persuade the Illinois legislature to enact meaningful reform after the Rod Blagojevich scandal. In particular, the legislature passed an astonishingly bad campaign finance reform bill that will do almost nothing to curb the influence of money in politics.

Quinn is fond of the referendum: he has pushed to allow Illinois voters to recall governors like California voters can. But the sign of a moral and effective governor is someone who can constructively work with their state legislature while sticking with their principles. Having often failed to do this in his eight months as governor, Quinn may already be turning to more symbolic, less substantive actions.-MB